A/N

(Nervous Laughter) So… yeah. I just updated after a couple of years of absence. It's what happens when life catches on to you. Actually, this chapter was supposed to have uploaded on April (2014) but I got sidetracked, things came up, I had to redo the whole chapter, job got hectic and I was forced to travel from—ugh, enough of me.

What matters is, I'm here and updating the story again (yes, updates are coming). My update schedule might be erratic but, rest assured, the story will NOT be abandoned. I've got a start, middle and an ending. It's just that I don't have the drive I used to have…

Which is why I just finished eight chapters (70k words) worth of fillers (which are still being edited, unfortunately).

Why the filler? Well, I found the main chapters I've written felt unsatisfying. And then I realized I need to establish some kind of foundation—a beginning, you might say. So I decided to return to the Cross Academy days. There'll be some minor irregularities here and there but it won't be that significant.

I'll be fleshing out a few characters here and there and probably add a couple of OCs (fleshed out as well) that will play major roles for the development of the story.

And yes, there will be lemons, in chapter 8 specifically. It's a disgusting chapter to write because of Zero's complicated character… well, you'll find out enough soon enough.

Also, I'm REALLY in need of any proofreader, preferably someone with experience. My grammar powers aren't really that good.

PM me if interested!

DISCLAIMER: Vampire Knight owned by Matsuri Hino

Martyrdom Part I

(Two Years Ago)

(Friday, 01:10 PM)

Sayori sat alone on one of the benches in the gym, studying and taking notes from a book of algebra on her lap. She chews on the cap of her pen with a concentrated frown, jotting a few important formulae on her notebook before shifting her gaze on the basketball practice being held in front of her, making continued noise of shoes squeaking, panting and shouting.

Zero's playing, substituting for one of the injured bench players. His team (the ones in black jerseys) consisted of the reserve players and they were playing against the starting rosters (the ones in white jerseys).

The difference in the score wasn't that much (forty-one to seventy in the third quarter in favor of Zero's team). Curiously enough, Zero still hasn't made any points (preferring not to, Sayori suspects). But his other stats were damn impressive (thirty blocks, nineteen assists and twenty-one steals).

The varsity team of the Day Class has an excellent offensive prowess, decent defense but slightly, below average skilled bench players.

The team's coach asked (begged, if Sayori recalls correctly) Zero to play and whip his players in into shape and teach them a little about humility. So far, with the pale faced and wheezing starters, the smug looking bench warmers and the very pleased look of the team's coach, it's safe to say that Zero's having a bit of success on his part.

Smiling at the small wave Zero sent her way, she returned to her work.

"Hey, Wax."

She looks up and found the source—immediately regretting it. Scowling, she turned her head back to her work, jotting notes with unnecessary force. Perhaps if she remained quiet and focused her mind hard enough, the person would just simply vanish. The said person was a walking definition of annoyance (to her, at least) and she just doesn't have that spare energy to deal with it.

Alas, that was not the case.

"You alone, Wax?" Ichiru Kiryu tried again, walking towards her like he owned the damn place. "Mind if take a seat beside you?"

She's been avoiding him for the last two days. And, finally, she was cornered.

"Yes, I do mind! Thank you not-so-very much!" She snapped at him, brows knitted. "Go away!"

His grin widens and he sniggers as he took the seat beside her nonetheless.

He cut his hair this time. Head shaved on both sides while the remaining top and back were tied in a tight ponytail. Zero and Ichiru were easily distinguishable this way. He's wearing a pair of pointed, black shoes, pair of faded jeans, white shirt and black leather jacket.

"Feisty, aren't we?" He crosses his hands behind his head and watched the game curiously before turning to the book and notebook on her lap. "What are you doing Wax?"

"I'm planting turnips." She almost ripped a page off her book when she turned it.

"Sarcasm." He sighed. "Making progress…"

She likes this seat and she intends not to move away—she doesn't' want to give him the satisfaction. Perhaps if she stays indifferent, he'll take the hint and walk away.

But she might as well just ask for hell to freeze over.

After a few uncomfortable (on her part, at least) silence, Ichiru let out a small sigh as he cleared his throat. Sayori's attention was, for a very brief moment, caught by Elric's (the team captain with an annoying brown afro) minuscule outburst, slamming the ball in frustration and shouting colorful profanities in the air after Zero blocked his shot for the sixth time (he's got only two points in him—earned through a couple of free throws).

"You're still mad about what I did?"

Oh my GOD! What do YOU think!?

"No." she says indifferently.

"Convincing ."

She gives him an annoyed look and went back to her work, concentration slowly chipping away.

"Wax…" he starts again.

"Lay off!"

"Not unless you talk to me."

"What's there to talk about?" she snapped at him, muttering a few profanity under her breath.

"I know you're still mad about me…"

She closed her book so forcefully, it made Ichiru flinch a little. She turned to him, glaring and brows stitch into a tight scowl.

"You stole my panty from my drawer and paraded it —paraded IT—on top of your head inside the common room for everyone to see!" she hissed, forcefully pushing the pen on his chest at every sentence. "Why should I stay mad, huh!?Why should I feel humiliated!? Why should I fantasize about hanging a noose around your scaly neck!?"

"I was drunk!"

"That's not an excuse, you leftover fecal matter!" she lowered her voice down a little so as not to make a scene. There were a number of students (girls, mostly) around the gym who were watching the practice game and Sayori didn't want any unnecessary attention to herself. "You think being inebriated while doing your little feats—on my account—gives you a nice lovely free pass—well guess what? It doesn't! And one of these days, it's going to come back to bite you in the ass!"

He lets out an exasperated sigh.

"Well I know it's my fault and I'm so sorry, alright? I'm sorry. Really. I am."

"If being sorry can magically fix things, there would've never been wars, wouldn't it?"

"Well what can I do to make it up to you?"

Her eyes narrowed, but the venom in them never wavered. Then, as she looked down at Zero, an alarmingly evil smile crept to her face; the kind of smile that promises retribution.

Ichiru swallowed hard.

"You—you didn't tell him, did you?"

She turns her face away to pick up her book, jotting back nonchalantly like nothing happened.

"When you least expected it, Ichiru…"

He might as well reserve a bed in the infirmary, preferably one close to the window. He knows how it works. Just a simple mention of Ichiru's transgression on Sayori's part to Zero and something unexplainable happens to him that has caused the misdemeanor. It's an unspoken rule around the school; every male student must behave around Zero's female friends—Yuki and Sayori. And, to an extent, if one was inclined to listen to rumors, Osakabe Mamori—the red headed bombshell that gossips says is dating one Zero Kiryu.

Ichiru is not sure if Sayori is aware of this but he knows that Zero's going to whoop his ass—brother or not—the moment he finds out… which he probably—likely—definitely—already knows.

He lets out a groan as he slumps back lazily on his seat—no use worrying about the inevitable.

He looks at her with curios tilt of his head and Sayori really wishes he'd leave her alone.

"You're annoyed at me."

She ignored him.

"You know Wax, I think you're still annoyed with me."

She pretended that she didn't hear him.

"You're still annoyed?"

She slams her palm on her notes.

"I'm not annoyed!" she snapped at him and he raised an unconvinced brow. "But if you keep pestering me if I'm annoyed—which I'm not, for now—you might just get something worse than an 'annoyed' flying to your face!"

He—wearily and cautiously—eyed her pen, which she was holding like she might just stab something (someone) with it and decided not to poke her patience—despite the amount of fun he derives from it.

"O—kaay." He raised his hands in surrender.

They sat there in relative silence (Sayori wanting to be left alone and Ichiru not wanting to leave her alone). Occasionally, Sayori would perk up from her work to watch the game, smiling pleasantly whenever Zero meets her gaze. When the twins met each other's gaze though, they just exchanged the rude finger with each other with the look of indifference in their faces—Sayori tried to hide the giggle in her hands.

Ichiru heaves out a long exhale as he made himself more comfortable on his seat.

"Hey, Wax? Can I ask you a question?"

"No."

"I heard Steele asked you out on a date." He says nonchalantly. "How'd it go?"

He was referring to the Day Class's rugby team's team captain—and Ichiru's captain, since he plays for them too, but only when he felt like it. Nice guy, a blonde tower of meat and a smile that almost blinded Sayori on more than a couple of occasions.

Zero played for them last week when they faced the Night Class. Curious enough, it was also the day that Yuki told her that she and Kaname are officially a couple now. The Day Class won and the Night Class suffered eight injured players—courtesy of Zero—in the process (she's heard most of them got released from the infirmary just yesterday—she was pretty sure each one of them fractured a bone or two, but perhaps she was wrong).

"I said no." she sighed. "I turned him down."

If he has no intention of slithering off, she might just as well act civil and polite (for Zero's sake). Besides, she doesn't think she could stay mad that long.

"Oh… you don't like him? He's a nice guy. He may look like he eats steroids for breakfast but, he's a nice guy nonetheless. Sensitive too. Listen's to that Ann Murray bullshit."

"It's not that—wait, who's Ann Murray?"

"You know, Ann Murray, the singer?"

"I may be familiar with her song, but, can't say the same with the singer."

"Ever heard Broken Hearted Me?"

She shook her head.

"Um, Danny's Song?"

"Wait, didn't Michael Jackson sing that?"

"I think that's the song Ben that he sung you're talking about."

"Oh, well, why don't you try singing to me? Maybe I'll remember?"

"Well… I think it goes like… Even though we ain't got money, I'm still so in love with you honey—HEY!"

She was snickering unforgivably at him.

"You tricked me!"

"You're tone deaf!"

She starts laughing and his cheeks colored a little.

"Yeah, yeah, laugh at my expense…" he remarks dryly as he rested his chin on the palm of his hand, trying very hard not to listen to her mocking giggles as he watched the game. "I can't believe I fell for that…"

She pushed his shoulder playfully.

"Promise me you won't be a singer!" she says through her uncontrolled sniggering. "Promise me!"

"You know, I might just take you on that challenge." He says irritably—not meaning it—and then impatiently added. "What you were saying before, let's get back to that."

"About you being tone deaf?" she sniggers.

"You know what I mean."

She lets out a sigh—sniggering a little—and tucked a few loose strands of her hair behind her ear.

"Well… it's not that I don't like him—he's likeable, really—it's just that… I'm not really comfortable dating someone I hardly knew."

He nods, rubbing his jaw in a thoughtful manner.

"Is it because of your last boyfriend… Jun, was it? I've heard he tried to force you to—um, well, it's a good thing my brother was there. I'm sorry—I shouldn't have brought that up. Sorry."

She shrugs nonchalantly.

"I'm not touchy of the subject."

He lets out a sigh.

"We don't have to talk about him."

"No, it's okay. I moved on. It's nothing, really."

He looks down at her fingers—she'd stopped doing her notes.

"Was he your first boyfriend?" he asks carefully.

"Yeah. But I wasn't his first, though. He's got a reputation, I guess. And—and I was willing to overlook that."

She was making illegible doodles on her notes, smiling more to herself—though the smile didn't reach her eyes.

"How long did you two… went out together?"

She chuckles.

"A week. It's kinda funny when you think about it. I guess he thought I'd be another girl on his list of conquests. Good thing it didn't happen."

Her eyes travelled to Zero.

"He was a bastard. It's good that he's already graduated, otherwise… well… I guess I see where you're coming from. Nowadays, boys tend to forget to establish friendship and trust before taking it to the next level with the girl they like, you know?"

She raises a brow at him.

"That's kind of ironic coming from you."

"How's that?"

"You've had two girlfriends this month alone, Ichiru."

"Is that what they said?"

"It's what I saw."

He laughs.

"You shouldn't listen to rumors, Wax."

She shrugs and resumed her attention with her notes.

"Smokes don't come without fires." She says rather indifferently.

He observed her from the corner of his eye.

"I haven't had a girlfriend since… since I've told you about how I felt for you."

She stops from her work to look at him, a faint blush creeping on her face.

"It's kinda hard to say if you're lying right now."

"I'm not lying."

She gave him one more look before looking down at her work.

"Liar."

"I'm telling the truth."

She huffs out an annoyed sigh.

"I hate liars, you know?"

"But I'm telling you the truth."

"Or you're telling me a convenient lie."

"You're a stubborn woman, you know that?"

She turns a page of her book and continued to take note.

"Look Ichiru, I don't really care if you've had a string of girlfriends this month or before, but I do take offense at the fact that you're straight up lying at my face." She looks up at him with knitted brows. "So if you don't mind, I've got a work to do and there are seats over there."

He groans inwardly, heaving out a frustrated sigh.

"Look at me, Yori. Look at me." She stares up at him suspiciously. "The girls that have been with me… I've dated them, sure… maybe—maybe I've slept with some of them," she raised a skeptical brow. "Okay, maybe most of them. But the point here is, ever since I laid my cards in front of you, I've never been with a girl. And that's me holding my end of the deal. Those girls you saw with me? They're just friends to me—purely platonic. That's the truth. And I'm not lying."

She looks away, a faint blush creeping on her face.

"You still slept with them." She mutters.

"I'm a perverted man in his hormonal peak; it's a deadly combination. It's a difficult part of me to control… but I did—for you." He puts her hand on his. "So, if you give me a chance, just one little chance, and I swear to you on this, I'd do more than that."

She'd never heard that much sincerity in his voice since now, and it left her a little dazed.

"You—you know my answer Ichiru—and I've told you." Her eyes meet his and, gradually, travelled towards Zero. "And now you know why. I just… I don't even know you that well."

"All I'm asking is that you let me become your friend, first. And then, well, you could trust me next… maybe more after that."

"You kinda messed that up when you stole my underwear."

He scratched the back of his head awkwardly.

"Yeah… I kind of did. Oops, right? Well, if anything, I was hoping I could've included your bra too."

"Ew."

She takes back her hand and pushes him teasingly as they laughed together.

Looking back down the court, they saw Zero (purposely) let Elric shoot the ball and, frustrated, marvelously acquired an air ball. Zero merely shrugged and, as if to spite them, smoothly stole a rebounded ball from an opposing player and threw the ball to the other side of the court; it was all net. Kind of a show off, but it was Zero's way of showing the team that they're not as good as they think are. It was his way of putting their feet back on the ground. Arrogant, yes, but that that's just how he is.

Sayori took her gaze from the game.

"So… just friends?" she asks tentatively.

"Just friends," he assured her and then smiled hesitantly. "And I know this place that makes some awesome sundaes… tomorrow, perhaps?"

"Sounds good."

Elric has called for a time-out and both teams huddled in their respective courtsides. Elric, unsurprisingly, was flush from barking plays and strategies at his team while Zero calmly pointed a few changes in his own team's plays. It was a little maddening for Elric, really, since he was included as one of the top ten basketball players in the country and here he was, mopped on the floor by a player who wasn't even a fan of the game and was treating it with an air of modest disinterest.

Zero looks at the scoreboard (fifty-one to ninety in favor of Zero's team) and then to Elric, giving him a small noncommittal shrug as he did so. Sayori has never seen the man so determined to win like now.

"Hey, Wax? I'm just wondering…"

"What?" she says distractedly, her thoughts on double-checking her work.

"How long have you fancied my brother?"

For some reason, the question didn't surprise her. She was still calm as she could ever remember and her mind didn't race to automatically make excuses. Somehow, she figured he'll know. Someone else's bound to. It was just a matter of when.

She didn't even look up from her work.

"How'd you know?" she asks casually.

"You said so yourself… you find it hard to trust men. But, you trust my brother—explicitly, I might add. It just seems… easy from there to like him, right? I mean, he's smart, talented, dedicated and… very good looking."

She couldn't help but notice a small group of fifth year girls giggled excitedly when Zero lifted the hem of his jersey to wipe the sweat off his eyes, exposing the taut abdominal muscles packed tightly over there and that ever sought V line, teasing one's mind where it met (Sayori swore one of those girls mouthed the word 'sinfully delicious').

"Strange… I seemed to have sensed the vague, lingering narcissism on the last part." She raised a brow at him. "I hope that wasn't intentional."

He smirks.

"Clever girl."

They shared a laugh but it was Sayori who went quiet first, biting the cap of her pen in a thoughtful manner.

"Ever since—ever since my first breakup… I guess. I don't know. I'm not sure. All I know is, I'm happy… I'm happy when I'm with him."

Anxiously, she stole a quick glance at Ichiru. He's suspiciously calm about her little revelation.

"Does Yuki know?"

She shook her head.

"She's starting to, I suppose. That girl can be very perceptive of other people's feelings except hers and Zero's. Kind of ironic, when you think about it."

He remained quiet, eyes currently focused on the game.

"You're… you're okay with this?" she asked hesitantly.

He gave her a tentative smirk.

"Oddly enough… I felt—I felt relieved actually." He looked down at his shoes, grinning a little. "I guess… I guess what I meant was, I'm glad that the one who stole your fancy was a great guy like my brother, and I'm not being partial about it just 'cuz he is my brother. Otherwise, if you said Aidou, I'd be a little too pissed about it. That guy rubs me wrong in every way. Well, my point is, it made sense."

She turned to her work, face strangely stern.

"And also because he truly fancies my best friend?" she added in a whisper. "In which case there won't be a chance he'd look at me in a different light?"

He looked alarmed, panicked.

"No, no, no, I—I didn't—I didn't mean it like that!"

She waved him off.

"No, it's alright. I've come to terms with it." She says with a wry grin. "Doesn't mean I'm numb to the sting, though."

He fought the urge to grab her and wrap her in his arms, whisper words of reassurances and comfort. Unrequited emotions are quite the difficult pricks to remove. It stays with you, slowly eating you from the inside out. The funny thing is, it is still in your power to deal with, but most of us chose not to. Because of fear, mostly. It just goes downhill from there.

So, despite himself, Ichiru just grabs her hand and squeezed it reassuringly.

"If it could make you feel a little better, you could always pretend I'm him when we're together…"

She took her hand and pushed him good-humoredly, smiling appreciatively.

"You and your brother's masochistic tendencies…" she muttered underneath her giggle. "I'm sorry, but it's kinda hard to mistake you two as twins these days."

Which was true.

Zero's a couple inches taller than Ichiru now and, while the latter was still as lean as ever, Zero was beginning to have the noticeable physique of an athlete. And while both still sports those lovely cheek bones, Zero's prominent jawline was certainly sticking out. There was also the hair where Ichiru has the ponytail and shaved sides of his head going on for him while Zero still sported those messy locks of white hair that managed to droop playfully over his eyes and the very thin layer of stubble on his face that, more than once, tempted her to rub her hands on. And the choice of clothes, whereas Ichiru goes for the stylish and sophisticated approach, Zero preferred the rugged and practical style.

If Sayori was honest, Zero certainly has the lead. If only because he looks like the man a woman would definitely take to her bed first, and then have a romantic date later.

"Aye… it kinda got annoying when people call Zero as 'Zero' and Ichiru as 'Zero's twin'." He shrugs with a grin, gingerly rubbing the shaved side of his head. "I figured that I make my own version of brand recognition. You like it?"

"It's cute."

His grin widens considerably.

"I'm thinking of getting my ear pierced."

"Like Zero?"

"Yeah."

"I thought you're doing the brand recognition er, thingy?"

"It's just the one ear."

She nods.

"Okay…"

"What? You don't like it?"

"I don't know…"

"Well, since we're about start going out—"

"As friends." She corrected him. "Platonic friends."

"—I think you should give an honest input on this."

She rolled her eyes and gave him a stern look.

"Ichiru, you'd look fine with or without the piercing, okay? I don't necessarily have to put my input on your aesthetic choices. It's your choice, really."

He nods thoughtfully.

"Alright. I'm not doing the piercing then."

She lets out a sigh and resumed her work, turning a few pages as she did so.

There was a moment of awe between the small spectators in the gym when, in a string of rare bad luck, Zero's teammates missed crucial jump shots for seven consecutive times. But Zero was an unstoppable rebounding machine, executing the offensive save continuously until one of his teammates' three pointer made it in.

Elric's starting team looked awfully helpless during the whole process and nobody felt worse that the team captain himself; they've probably never been beaten this bad before—by the hands of the bench players on top of things.

Sayori wouldn't be surprised to see the white flag being waived by Elric, but they're still playing determinedly and one has to give some points and recognition for that.

"Hey, Wax?"

"Yep?"

"Is Aidou… is he, you know… um, well… I uh…"

Sayori looks up from her work to look at him curiously.

"What?" she asks with an inquisitive brow.

"The—well—about—that, uh… I mean, he—I…"

"What? Spit it out." She smiles amusingly.

"About Aidou—"

"Are you fidgeting?"

"Wha—what, no! I mean." He made a great effort to calm himself, feeling a little stupid at his own antic. "About you and Aidou… did you…"

"Did I… what?"

"Did you… did you date him?"

She smiles mysteriously and returned back to her work, pretending (convincingly) that she has not heard him.

He stares at her with furrowed brows as he let out a frustrated sigh.

"Yori."

"What?"

"Come on! Don't 'what' me. I asked the question."

"Maybe I don't feel inclined to answer the question?"

He groaned frustratingly. She continued to take notes, smiling as she did so. Clearly she was enjoying this. Suddenly he wished he didn't ask. But curiosity won over him.

"Geez… alright, alright… Even deal. You answer my question, I answer yours. Sounds fair?"

"Okay…"

He nodded.

"Well… did you or did you not date Aidou?"

She savored the moment to answer, enjoying the look of eagerness on Ichiru's face.

"I did. That was before Jun. I wasn't technically his girlfriend, nor are we dating exclusively."

"Oh." He nodded.

He looked and sounded disappointed.

"How long?"

"I thought the deal was only one question?"

He waved her off.

"It's a relevant question."

She pretended to think, smiling mysteriously as she did so.

"I guess it was for a month."

He nods curiously.

"Average length of time I guess." He leans in, whispering. "How… how far did you go with him?"

She raised a brow at him, grinning slyly.

"My, my, Ichiru… well, aren't you the curiously healthy little boy?" She gives him a condescending look. "You shouldn't ask a lady that question."

He scratches the back of his head, smiling sheepishly.

"I uh… well, uhm, you really don't have to answer."

She returned to her notes, jotting a few numbers as she did so.

"We kissed. Nothing more. My pride's still intact, in case you're wondering…" she turned a page. "He was really into that PDA stuff. I'm not. So I called the whole thing off. He's still trying to get my attention even as of today. But not as annoying as it was before. Zero saw to it."

He nods.

"PDA?"

"Public Display of Affection?" she pointed out. "You know… holding and kissing in public eyes, that kind of stuff."

He nods with a grin.

"Not Public Display of Arousal?"

She smacks him with a book as they burst into laughter.

"Alright, how about I start asking the question?"

"Fire away lady."

"Okay." She closes her notes for a moment. "Is it true that you've had an affair with Alexander Cormack? The Sixth year Aussie?"

He opened his mouth and crossed his arms on his chest in a display of mock hurt and embarrassment.

"Why, Sayori Wakaba, a boy shouldn't kiss and tell!"

She gave him a deadpanned look.

"So did you do the thing or not?"

He gave an innocent (almost believably) look.

"What thing?"

"You know… the thing!"

"You'd have to be more specific."

Grinning mischievously and making sure nobody was looking their way, she made a quick jerking, motion with her hand.

He looked disgusted (mockingly) of her.

"Why you dirty, dirty, girl you!"

They both burst in laughter, forcing down a volume or two so as not to attract attention.

"You haven't answered any of my query though!" she smacks his should teasingly.

He raised both his hands.

"Alright, alright." He cleared his throat. "I did, okay? We kissed. But that's all. We didn't explore the… well, you know… that specific human cavity."

She tried to hide her smirk.

"I'm not gay, okay? I was just curios. And I was going through a phase."

She laughs again.

"Zero didn't go through that phase."

"That's 'cuz he's boring!"

She continues to laugh, face already flush.

"And I'm not heterosexual either! And certainly not gay!"

"I didn't say anything!"

"You were implying!"

"What the mint chcolate chip part of that was I implying?"

"You looked like you were implying—wait, did you just curse in ice cream?"

"Yep."

"Do it again."

"Not unless you admit that your sexual category is rainbow!"

"Goddamn it woman, I'm not gay!"

She laughs even harder.

"You're so defensive. Maybe you're a closet kind of gay."

He rolled his eyes.

"Oh my God… I knew that little episode's going to bite me in the ass one day." He muttered before he could stop himself from speaking the last words.

She was flushed and her sides were already in stitches from laughing, much to his chagrin.

After heaving out a long exhale of breath, grinning impishly at the recollection of Ichiru's gay experience (who could only roll his eyes), they settled back again into a companionable silence. Sayori continued with her notes and Ichiru watched the final moments of the game (hollering a few harmless insults on Elric's account) when his eyes caught a particular lone figure sitting on one of the lower benches, cheering madly for Zero.

"Wax… who's that particularly eye-pleasing bird?"

"Which one?"

He nods towards the auburn haired, bespectacled girl and Sayori's eyes followed.

"Ah… that's Nadeshiko Shindo. Senior High Fourth Year. Same as us. We're classmates." She turns a page on her book as she jots down a perilously long formula. "Very shy though…"

"Nadeshiko Shindo eh? Never noticed her that much before. Friendly girl?"

"Oh, very. Everybody likes her. Smart too. And pretty."

"Hmhm… you don't say… very fit, that girl."

He was thoroughly enjoying the distracting way she bounced, perhaps, a little too much.

Sayori elbows him.

"What?"

"She's out of bounds for you." She says impishly with a smirk. "So keep your claws to yourself."

"How's that?"

She leans in conspiratorially.

"Rumors were, she definitely fancies Zero."

"There you are again with the 'rumors'."

"Yuki and I once saw her flirting with Zero. Yuki immediately decided she didn't like her, there and then. Intolerant gal…"

"There you are again with the 'saw'."

"She confessed to me."

His grin was maniacal.

"Oh? And did you accept her love and consummate the forbidden relationship after? Any juicy tales perhaps? You didn't care to inform me about your homosexual tendencies Wax, you naughty, naughty mink—"

She smacked him with her book.

"She admitted to me that she likes Zero—on a beyond friendship condition, if you know what I mean. And I don't swing that way."

"Seriously?"

"Seriously."

"You sure you don't swing that way? Try experimenting. Formulate hypotheses. Experiment some more. Take pictures. Let me watch—"

She smacked him with her book, again.

He returns to watching the girl once more, rubbing his chin in a thoughtful manner.

"Still, I gotta admit, it's a little unsettling that my stupid brother gets all the best gals…"

As he said this, his eyes casually travelled to Sayori, appreciating the way her short, auburn hair clung to her face, those big brown eyes, the faint freckles on her nose, those glistening pink lips (he had to fight the craving to claim them), her red shirt that clung to her feminine figure, the cream-colored shorts that hung on those lovely, lovely slender legs of hers…

They were supposed to be twins. Yet, there's just something about Zero that he doesn't have that draws the girls with real substance to his presence…

"You know, it's rude to stare…" she casually says, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear, eyes still focused on her work.

Damn.

"I can't help it. I know beauty when I see one."

She laughs—the kind of laugh that borders between sarcasm and deadpan.

"Totally haven't heard that before." She remarked dryly, tugging the sleeve of her red shirt.

Red.

He looks over at Shindo—to her skirt.

Red.

Was the color a telltale sign of Zero's female admirers (there's a guy there wearing one)? Maybe the color was Zero's favorite (it is)? Maybe it was their way of grabbing some of Zero attention using bright colors (hogged by Yuki nowadays)?

Whatever the case, Ichiru was beginning to notice a pattern.

"Where is Yuki?" he asked, genuinely curious that she's not with her best friend and not around to watch Zero's weekly whack-the-snobbiest-git's-ego-back-to-earth activity.

Sayori's shoulders tensed up.

"With… with her boyfriend."

Ichiru's brows never shot up so fast before.

"Excuse me?"

She looks up at him tentatively, the playful glint in his eyes completely gone, replaced by the pinning gaze the twins are known for.

"Oh… right, you and Zero's been gone for a week for a family matter."

"Yes we were, so you're going to have to forgive me if I'm little bit outdated on the gossip circles and happenings around Cross Academy." He clasps both hands impatiently. "Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but did I just hear you just say that she's 'with her boyfriend?'"

"Er, yeah."

"Boyfriend? She's got a boyfriend? A male partner in an intimate relationship that involves holding, hugging, kissing and sleeping together?"

She nods.

"Kaname Kuran?"

"Kaname Kuran."

He breathes out through his mouth, long and clearly exasperated. He buries his face in his clasped hands.

"What the fuck is wrong with you, Kuran?" he whispers harshly to himself, but enough for Sayori to hear. "We were gone for a week and you just moved in and snatch the girl from my brother? Tricking the girl? The fuck? You have no etiquette. Your sense of propriety is garbage. You are goddamn coward. A scheming, two-bit, backbiting son of a bitch!"

Sayori almost flinched at the acid in the tone of Ichiru. If he could emanate this much anger, she couldn't even start to fathom what it's like for Zero.

"Is he aware?" he looks up to watch his brother. "Does he know?"

"He always knows." She'd already abandoned her notes. "But… I think he's doing a very good job at it. I—I didn't—I didn't realize that this is bothering him…"

He nods.

"Yeah, well, you know him. Fucked up talented… you could put Best Actor in his résumé somewhere in there." He shook his head. "Goddamnit…"

He looks like he wanted to kick something.

"I—I'm sorry. I know Kaname's intimidated by Zero so—so I should've known. I should've done something about this. About her."

He waved her off.

"No, don't worry yourself. There was nothing you could've done to stop Kuran. My brother's the only one who could've." He lets out a sigh and shook his head. "He's just waiting for Kaname to make a wrong move, I swear. And when he does…"

Sayori looked alarmed.

"Ichiru—you don't actually think he'd—Zero's not like that!"

"He's not, I know. But when it concerns your best friend… well, you might just as well throw consistencies out of the window."

"Oh—Ichiru, can't you do anything?"

He shrugs.

"I could try to stop him from murdering Kuran. But Yori, I gotta be frank with you, it's inevitable! What Kuran did was just personal and a low blow and, I don't know how, but Zero's going to even the score one way or another. But I'll try, okay? I'll try not to let that happen."

Sayori watched Zero worriedly. She knows this will greatly upset him, but he acted so normal and fine and she was so convinced that he wasn't that upset. But now, seeing his brother's reaction, she's now absolutely convinced that Zero has managed to fool her, that the truth was that this new relationship between Yuki and Kaname's eating him up. She should've known!

He's bottling all the pain inside all this time! How could've she'd been so, so stupid not to see though the whole facade!?

She stands up.

"Yori?"

"I—I need to talk to Zero."

She picks up her notes, towel and water bottle beside her, shocked that her hands were shaking.

"Yori." Ichiru gently grabs her wrist. "What are you doing?"

"I'm going to talk to him I—I—oh, Ichiru. I should've known! I should've known! How did I convince myself that he's fine!? He's not!" she felt her eyes sting. "What kind of friend am I? When he was always there when I need him the most and—and I can't be there for him when it really mattered? Oh—oh God, I'm so terrible!"

She tries to break free but he didn't let her go.

"Ichiru!"

He pulls her back to her seat.

"Hey, I understand how you feel, believe me. But it's not gonna do anyone any good if you march down there and confront him about his issue. Why do you think he's acting like this, huh? He wants to handle the problem on his own and he doesn't want any of his friends to worry about him."

"Well I'm worried already!"

"Yes you are but at this point, knowing that his problem affected you too will just add to the weight he's already carrying. You and Yuki's happiness and wellbeing are important for him. Why do you think he's so protective of you two? There's absolutely nothing that will upset him more than seeing these completely, unnecessary tears on your lovely, lovely eyes." Ichiru wipes the tears off her eyes with a handkerchief. "And there is nothing he loves more than to see the two of you lovely ladies smile. So smile!" he pulls the corner of her lips up. "Or there won't be any more juicy stories for you, you exquisite flower you!" He leans on her ear. "Alexander Cormack's not the only guy I've kissed, you know? But I'll let you have your laugh on my account next time, okay?"

She actually managed to chuckle.

"But—but he needs someone to talk about this." She protested. "He can't boil this inside. It's unhealthy!"

He waved her off dismissively.

"Oh, someone already did."

"Who did?"

"Not important. Come on, let's go down there and see if Elric cries. Then we point our fingers at him while laughing shamelessly on his account this time, even though people thinks it's wrong. But who gives a shit. We're having fun. That's how we roll."

She smacks him again.

"Don't be rude."

"But you're smiling though."

"No, I'm not."

"Yes, you are! Look!"

"No, I'm not! You are!"

"I'm not smiling."

"Then what do you call that?"

"That was a smirk. I was smirking."

"Yeah, whatever."

Sayori pushed him lightheartedly and stood up, Ichiru following. He grabbed her notes and let her carry the water bottle and towel.

"All smile, Yori." He whispers.

"I know."

The game has ended, sixty-eight to ninety-four in favor of Zero and his smiling (maniacally) benchwarmer teammates—embarrassing for the starters, to say the least.

Everyone exchanged sportsmanship gestures (respectable nods and extended hands to shakes) and Zero, looking like his mind was somewhere else and unusually indifferent (reasonably), decided to partake as well. It was after the compulsory gesticulations did the team started to gush over him, including—surprisingly—Elric.

Both Sayori and Ichiru silently decided to let the team bombard him with praises and questions.

"Yori?" he whispers.

"Yeah?" she whispers back.

"Did Yuki notify Zero about this upgraded, little fling she has with Kuran herself?"

She shook her head.

"She told me she was going to but… well, she didn't know how. And I think Yuki suspects that Zero already knew. I mean, it's just the verbal acknowledgement that seemed to be disheartening her. You know, Zero's actual, honest reaction…"

"It's been two days since we arrived. She can't just hold the revelation on indefinite and wait for someone else to mention it for her. And Zero's definitely not gonna ask. The prerogative, in this situation, lies with your insensitive and hasty best friend."

"She's not insensitive and hasty."

"Oh, really? What do you call a girl who accepts her longtime crush's offer for a more serious and exclusive relationship, without taking into consideration—not even a little bit—the feelings of the one person who, I might add, has been handling her like a real princess, always there for her darkest moments, always there to care for, always there to give time for her, always there to listen to her and has been planting clues over here and there that he's also interested for a romantic opportunity with her, didn't even wait—fucking wait, for a week—to ask for the said person's opinion on the matter in hand, knowing full well—and not taking into consideration, again—that this will definitely, absolutely, positively break the said person's heart and then later realizefinally realize—that she doesn't have the guts to break the news on his face, which could've been avoided—completely avoided—if she only had the skills to WAITand makeSENSEof the factors that I've mentioned which, by the way, she already knew. And then later, and I hope to God it does, get struck by an epiphany that her boyfuckinfriend caused all this simply to spite his worthy—and, unlike him, honorable—rival in love and not because of some noble, romantic realization she loves to delude herself with."

He was a little out of breath and flush after that.

"Okay… so maybe a little."

"It's every size but little, Wax."

"It's not her fault that's she's in love!"

He laughs sarcastically.

"Oh, Yori, we both know she's not in love."

"She believes she's in love."

"There's an enormous difference between the phrases 'Believing to be in love' and 'Feeling in love'. Your best friend thinks that she's in love."

"You can't really blame her for that."

"Stop defending her, Wax."

"I'm her best friend!"

"You're her biased best friend."

"Biased? You're biased."

"I'm his brother. What did you expect?"

"And I'm her best friend."

"You're the best friend by choice, therefore, your prejudice is by choice and her flaws that you tend to overlook, that's also by choice. I'm his brother and that's not by choice. I will take his side, not by choice. I'm justly biased."

"What the heck does that even mean?"

"It means I'm an objective kind of bias."

She chuckles.

"You and your philosophical bullcrap."

He smiles back.

"That's how I win an argument. I make deep-thinking bullcrap in order to confuse people."

She raised an imperative brow

"Oh, so you're saying you won the argument?"

"You smiled."

"So if I smile that meant you won? Who made the rules?"

"I did. And that's just how it is."

She scoffs.

"You're weird. Oh, and, for your information, I wasn't smiling."

"Hm? What was it then?"

"I was smirking."

"Clever."

They watched with interest as Zero extracted himself (with some effort and a few well-placed promises about practice) from his new suitors (Elric was surprisingly fast to forget about the whole mop-the-floor thing) and went to meet Nadeshiko, smiling sweetly as they converse with each other and Zero nodding courteously to some of her questions.

The two were tempted to eavesdrop in but decided to stand on the courtside instead.

"Healthy initiative, that girl." Ichiru nodded with a sly grin as he slowly turned to Sayori. "Unlike a certain someone…"

"I'm comfortable with how things are between us thank you very much."

"You don't sound as convincing as you think you are."

"And I don't need your commendation to feel better about my decision."

"So you're saying that you're perfectly fine with the fact that you don't know what his lips taste like? You're not bothered at all?"

She watched (longingly) as Zero licked his lips and smiled at something Shindo said. Her face flushed and she looked away.

"No." she lied.

Ichiru merely raised an unconvinced brow, but chose to keep his thoughts to himself. So instead, he decided to say something perverted.

"I'd feel a little bad when, inevitably, I take you to my bed and you accidentally moan his name. That's a real deal breaker, you know?"

She gave him an appalled look.

"The only chance that I'm going to sleep with you would be if you're the only man left here on earth. And even then I might just off myself on a nearby cliff, with pride still intact."

He was quiet for a moment.

"So, you're saying… there's a chance?"

"Ew."

It was a couple minutes before Zero finished the small conversation he's had with Shindo. She smiled appreciatively, muttered a 'thank you' and placed a peck on his cheek (Ichiru thought it was a totally friendly and platonic gesture, Sayori begs to differ) before setting off with a pleasant blush on her face (she almost tripped on the way out of the gym).

He turned to approach them.

"Hey."

"Hey." Sayori greeted with a smile. "Nice game."

"They gave us a hard time."

"Didn't look that hard from where we're seated." Ichiru deadpanned. "To you, at least."

"It's relative."

Sayori waves them off.

"Oh hush. Here's your water. Now, turn around so I can wipe you off your back. You do the rest after."

"Thanks, mum." He took the bottle made a quick swig, turned around before taking off his jersey to expose his sweat-drenched posterior to her. "You two seemed to be at peace…"

"For now." She says as she wiped off the sweat from him.

Ichiru rolled his eyes at the faint blush on Sayori and the indifferent look on Zero. He walked over the assistant team manager—a petite blonde girl (Junior Third Year) in a red tracksuit.

Red.

"Yo."

She jumps from her seat and looked back at him apprehensively.

"Y-yes? Can I help you… Mister Ichiru?"

He raised a brow curiously at the formality.

"What's your name?"

"Um… Aoi."

His brow remained raised.

"Okay, Aoi, you have the player stats from the game right?"

His eyes travelled to the blue binder on her lap.

"Yes but, I'm not supposed to let others—"

"Zero wanted to see."

They both turned to Zero, shirtless and eyes unfocused (seemed to be enjoying the way Sayori rubbed him). He glanced back at her curiously when he caught her staring. Aoi turned beet red and turned her eyes back to her lap.

"He—here." She hands the binder mechanically to Ichiru.

He snatches it quickly.

"Thanks, sweety. I'll put in a good word for ya."

Her face was starting to match her tracksuit.

Red.

He went back to where Sayori and Zero were.

"What was that about?" Zero nodded towards Aoi as he hands the water bottle to Sayori and took the towel to dry his own.

"Manipulation skills." He simply says as he opened the binder to check on Zero's stats from the game.

Zero Kiryu, Power Forward/Point Guard, Jersey No.07: Points-03, Assists-36, Rebounds-38, Steals-32, FG-1/1 Time at Play: 40min

Ichiru looks at him and Zero met his gaze, raising a brow questioningly.

"You're a disgusting human being, you know that?" Ichiru deadpanned.

Zero shrugs noncommittally.

"I didn't score that much, so what? I was commissioned to play defense."

"I think you're missing the sarcasm in my voice."

Sayori toolkthe binder off his hand.

"Wow… thirty-two steals?" Sayori says with a fascinated nod, taking an absentminded swig from Zero's water bottle (Ichiru's brow twitched). "I don't think I've ever seen anyone do this. You should really consider going professional, Zero."

"That's also what Elric suggested but uh… nah, not interested. Not much of a fan of the game."

Sayori got transfixed by the leisurely (not suggestively) way Zero rubbed his glistening torso with the towel.

"You're not a fan of any game." Ichiru interjects.

Zero shrugged as he dried his hair.

"Well, I better return this to the girl." Sayori forced her eyes away from Zero. "Don't want to get her in trouble."

"Wait, I haven't seen Elric's stats."

"Don't be rude Ichiru."

She frowned at him before turning her back and walking towards Aoi.

When Sayori was out of earshot, Zero turned to pin Ichiru with his gaze.

"So… you stole her panty, huh?" Zero nonchalantly says he continued to dry his hair and Ichiru nearly flinched. "I ought to punch you, you know?"

Ichiru grins apologetically and scratched the back of his head.

"I'm genuinely sorry! I didn't mean it!"

"You paraded the damn thing in the common room! Most First to Sixth years boys saw the whole commotion! That doesn't sound like you 'didn't mean it'!"

"I was drunk!"

"Okay, I owe you two punches in the face."

"Oh come on! We're friends again! In fact, she and I are going out tomorrow. See? No harm done."

"Right. Three it is then. Three. I owe you three punches in the face."

"I like her, man. She's not like any other girl I've been. I'm serious about her."

Zero nods.

"You do realize that I'm going to kill you now, right? Should I snap your neck and get this over with? Better yet, how about I just castrate you? I think I have a knife here somewhere…"

Sayori jumps cheerfully between them.

"What did I miss?" she asked with a smile.

"Murder—"

"Hehey! Nothing! Nothing! It was nothing!" Ichiru interjected cheerfully (a little forced to be really believable). "Why don't you show him your notes, Yori?"

It was at that moment that Yuki, accompanied by Kaname (hand on hand), entered the gym.

Sayori knew her friend very well but, perhaps, not as well as Zero does. She knew that Yuki thinks that she's in love with Kaname. She also knew that Yuki genuinely likes Zero and it was, gradually, treading on intimate grounds (as to what Yuki, warily, confessed to her). Yuki's initial relationship with Kaname can be described as giddy formality sprinkled with a dash of awkwardness. Really, it was all about looking good for each other, impressing the other, showing only what was deemed appropriately attractive; purely aesthetical, really, and in Sayori's pure, belligerent description—superficial. But her friend's happy and mad about the man and she couldn't really blame her on that. Kaname is beautiful, perfect, the kind of man every girl dreamt of marrying one day even before they even understand what the concept of marriage really is.

Yuki is still in the process of mental and emotional maturity, though, signified by her impulsive and aggressive behavior that she, more than once, ended up lamenting for. And in this aspect that Zero fits in well. He's calm, calculative and saw things in a different, often interesting, kind of perspective as well as approach. And with him around, she becomes pleasantly confident, patient and at ease. Simply because their relationship was fundamentally built in friendship and honesty; there was no awkward gait, no shifted gaze, and no uncomfortable contact. Simply put, she was comfortable with Zero and didn't feel the need to impress him (because he knows she's stupid and mildly rude and is perfectly fine with that) nor felt the need to incessantly pamper her look (for he wakes her up in the morning and she was haggard, undignified, disagreeable, and moody yet he still thinks she's cute) and didn't see the need to be uncharacteristically nice and mannered (for he knows she's not perfect is understanding and patient about her).

In this circumstance, Ichiru was right. With Zero not around (a week is perhaps the longest he's been away from her), Yuki didn't carry that emotional patience he provided, didn't have that presence she could fall back to. And in this state Kaname placed her on the hot seat, made her feel that she's to lose him if he didn't accept his offer (and the offer was hard to resist, for she thinks she loves him) and that she didn't have the luxury of time to decide (even though she does, Zero would've assured her, for she held the power to reject him and not the other way around).

And in the end, in the one week that she's truly amenable to unnecessary outside influence, Yuki becomes Kaname's. And in the wake, she was left to deal with the consequence (Zero), for all Kaname really cared about was finally calling her 'his' and spiting the man that threatened to take her away. He knew that Yuki could fight his charm and influence with Zero around.

He was afraid of him.

It's in this kind of realization that Sayori's respect for Kaname threatened to downright disappear.

Yuki was laughing with him, completely at bliss, when hers and Zero's eyes met. Her smile disappeared and she looked away, guilty at finally being caught, her secret finally found. Zero's gaze didn't falter, he refuse to, as he kept them trailed at Kaname.

The killing intent he emanated was almost palpable and Sayori felt the hair on her neck stand up while Ichiru stood close behind him, whispering words to his brother she couldn't even hear.

And, as if to salt the wound or test his reaction (perhaps both), Kaname leans in to plant a kiss on Yuki's lips. She was against it at first, obviously uncomfortable at the amount of eyes (perhaps the specific set of amethyst eyes) witnessing the exchange between two lovers, but she relents (unwillingly) under his pressure.

Ichiru had to put a hand around his brother's wrist just in case he decides, right then and there, that Kuran needed to be relieved of his limbs.

The act was totally underhanded and unnecessary in Sayori's eyes and, in that instant, decided that Kaname Kuran is not the man Yuki thinks he is. He's deceitful, selfish and inconsiderate. It was one thing to win against a Zero Kiryu (on the one aspect that winning was absolutely vital), it's another thing to rub it in his presence (where the loss is just plain, downright personal).

Then, satisfied that he's made his point, Kaname breaks away from her lips, whispered something in her ear, and promptly left.

To say that the atmosphere between the two became awkward would be an understatement.

Most of the student has left the gym after the game, saved for the basketball team who, with one withering glare from Ichiru, decided to head to the lockers, having the seen the exchange between Zero and Kaname and sensing an impending confrontation between the two Prefects.

It wasn't actually a secret that Zero and Kaname's hatred towards each other was bordering personal (like now). And now that it was made clear where Yuki stood between the two men, it's as worse than ever.

"Yuki." Sayori approached her carefully. She stood frozen where Kaname left her, unable to look at Zero's direction and a hairline away from bursting into tears. Gently, she pats her on the shoulder. "Hey… hey… you alright?"

Yuki bit her lip, fighting off the urge to cry.

"I—I didn't know why he—he did it." She exhales hoarsely, trying to calm herself. "He—he said he's going to help me about—oh, God, Zero. I—I can't—"

She tried to make a run for it but Sayori grabbed her wrist.

"Yuki! Running's not going to solve anything." She says with a gentle smile. "Come on, you need to talk to Zero."

Zero was now sitting on one of the benches, drinking from his water bottle, his expression of casual indifference. Ichiru was sitting behind him, on one of the upper rows and was staring at them expectantly and was gesturing down to his brother with a stiff nod.

"B—but Yori! He—he saw! Oh, God—I'm so horrible. I know I shouldn't have—Yori, he's mad at me!"

Sayori gave her anxious look.

"I know but—but you need to face him, okay? He's not that angry. You two just need to talk it out. See? He's over there. The fact that he didn't leave meant he's open to it."

Yuki bit her lip apprehensively.

"But—but I haven't told him yet! And he—he had to find out like this! Ohhh… I knew I should've listened to you! I wish I wasn't such a coward."

Sayori grabs both her hands and smiled reassuringly.

"You will talk to him. He will listen. And everything will be normal again."

"But—but he's angry!"

"Not with you, okay? And you know he doesn't stay angry that long. He'll talk to you. Come on, let's go."

Yuki nodded anxiously and gave a nervous look towards Zero. But under Sayori's assurance, she acquiesces.

Ichiru shifted awkwardly from his seat, gazing expectantly at Sayori who was pulling a very anxious Yuki and was stealing furtive, nervous glances at Zero as they neared.

It was a good thing he decides to stay. But the same cannot be said to his silence. Ichiru knew that silence a little too well. That is the same look he does when he's scheming something. The last time he saw him in that status was when Sayori's despicable ex graduated from the academy.

'Graduated' can mean a lot of (horrible) things when you cross a Zero Kiryu.

He didn't exactly understand what was going on in Kuran's mind, but it certainly drove the message down at Zero's throat; Yuki chose Kaname over him. He just wished he was a little more blasé about the whole thing. But this is Kaname Kuran, he tends to get a few lengths just to savor the (rare) moments of victory against Zero. Still, Ichiru wasn't surprised.

What was surprising was how Zero held his cool. And Ichiru found that this behavior of his brother bothered him more than he cared to admit. Twins as they may be, still he wasn't really that adept in deciphering what was going on in his brother's mind. Not much of any of the people who knew him, actually.

And, really, it's unnerving when powerful men like Zero (who has dark tendencies) put out this guarded placate. For all he know, he's already plotting ways to kill Kuran as painfully and quietly as possible without rousing suspicion (which, to Ichiru's inordinate uneasiness, isn't really that far off).

He tried to ignore that thought by shifting his gaze on Yuki's clothes; green flannelled shirt, black shorts, red sneakers, red hair band and red bandana around her neck (Zero's souvenir for her).

Red.

He almost raised a brow at his brother's sudden shift of demeanor as Yuki neared. Really, she was the only person that had ever broken through his brother's prudently established walls. There was not a time he saw Zero more at ease than he was around Yuki (maybe with Sayori, on the few occasions). Nor had he seen him happier and emotionally vulnerable, open, and less of the ruthless Vampire Hunter he's shaping up to be.

Yuki Cross is Zero's strength and, ironically, weakness.

If she told him that she'll ditched Kaname for him if he leaves his whole career behind, he would do without a pause. He's that devoted and crazy about her.

"Zero, I think you two need to talk with each other." Sayori gently says as she pulls Yuki close behind her. "Just the two of you."

Zero looks at Sayori for a moment, and then to Yuki (still biting her lip, unable to meet his gaze and a hairline away from bursting to tears). He lets a disgruntled sigh, but nodded in concede eventually.

Ichiru nodded and grinned at Sayori, the hardest part was done and over. Yuki could spout all the lies in the world and Zero would still believe her (not that Yuki ever lied to him to begin with). So right now, it's just a matter of letting the two sort out the situation themselves. At least now, he didn't have to worry about his brother mopping around when he thinks no one's looking.

Feeling satisfied, Ichiru stood up and casually moved on to Sayori's side. Maybe he could take her out for some sundaes while his brother's distracted. Maybe he could ask for a platonic kiss as payment…

Something red from the entrance to the gym caught his eyes and he inwardly groaned.

Oh, you have got to be shitting me right now…

Strutting in like she owned the place, her dark red hair swishing elegantly behind her, Mamori Osakabe (still in her summer uniform; white shirt, red tie, black sweater vest, black skirt, black knee socks, black shoes) went straight for Zero who, unlike like the other two girls (who looked visibly curious), appeared very surprised. She stops in front him, arms crossed and raising an expectant brow.

The red haired Osakabe is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful girls that ever walked the academy grounds (Night Class included). The girl casually exudes an air of superiority and beauty, the perfect curves, the tantalizing emerald eyes, luscious lips, magnificent skin, fascinating freckles and sharp wits.

She's also a Vampire Hunter.

"You're supposed to meet me an hour ago." She says with a casual tone of discontentment. "I don't like being stood up, Zero."

Zero leans back on his seat and gave her an even stare.

"I had to finish up with the game." He says with a hint of displeasure in his voice. "Practice took longer than I expected."

"You promised me." She accused him.

"I remember and I have not broken that." He rebuts her.

Ichiru brows rose up.

Zero's weakness is that word.

His brother was bound to the promises he makes; an act deeply indoctrinated in their minds since they were young. It was done to establish their sense of honor at an early age—a trait every Hunter adheres to.

Ichiru wonders how and when she was able to make Zero do that for her… was it the time when he found out about Yuki and Kaname…? Figures. That must be it.

It's a little easy to manipulate a brokenhearted man.

She turns to look at the three exasperatingly, looking like someone has borrowed a very important belonging of hers and returned it in a less pristine condition.

She looks back at Zero, however, and her gaze falters for a moment and she lets out a quiet sigh. She took the towel from his shoulder and wiped the few droplets of sweat on his forehead.

"I told you to wait." He says with a light frown.

"Sorry…"

She tucks a red strand of hair behind her hair and, unable to help herself, leans down to kiss him.

Ichiru almost flinched at the look of pure shock that overcame the faces of Yuki and Sayori. Yuki's, however, slowly turned into a deep seething glare, directed especially to Osakabe.

"Forgive me?" she asks with that breathtaking smile.

He nods hesitantly.

"Yeah." He sighed.

"Come on," she grabs his jersey and pulled up his hand and he stands up, tentatively. "Let's go take a shower."

With the red haired girl strapped around his arm, Zero gave the three a weary look (lingering a little on Yuki) before she took him away and they left the gym toward the girl's dormitory.

Two sets of eyes turned sharply and inquisitively at Ichiru and he had never wanted the power to disappear into thin air more than ever. Laughing nervously, he concedes.

"Zero and Osakabe are… dating."

Yuki went pale and stormed out of the gym, bursting into tears, with Sayori hot on her heels (she gave him a mixed look of contempt, anger and confusion and Ichiru briefly wondered how is that even possible).

As he leans back to his chair with a heavy sigh, having the gym to himself, he draws out a pack of cigarette. He taps the pack gently on his palm and pulled out a stick using his mouth. Drawing a silver lighter from his back pocket, he flips it open and close a couple of times before deciding to light the cancer-inducing item trapped between his mouth.

As he took a deep whiff off the cigarette and blew the smoke above him, staring at the twirling smoke he'd made with mild interest, Ichiru glumly thought of a color.

Red.

TBC…

A/N

Yes… we're just getting started. The other seven chapters are done, but I'm still in the process of editing a few scenes here and there (they're very long) and checking a few grammars (which I'm not really good at).

Updates are coming.

Let me know what you think. (It'll boost me to quicken my editing skillz so I can update faster)